Nathalia is a rural township on the Broken Creek, about 30 km. east of where the creek joins the Murray River in northern Victoria. It is 40 km. north-west of Shepparton.

The origin of the name is unclear. In the mid 1870s news was reportedly received from a passer-by in the Nathalia district that a titled European lady had given birth to a daughter named Nathalia. The story was probably inaccurate. The Queen of Serbia, formerly Natalya Keshko (and alternatively spelt Natalie and Nathalia), was married in 1875 and gave birth to a son in 1876. No better explanation has emerged as to the source of the name Nathalia.

The Nathalia township was surveyed in 1879, a period when pastoral runs in north Victoria were being subdivided for farm selections. Additional surveys in 1886 and 1889 enlarged the township site.

Before the name Nathalia gained the formality of gazettal in 1880, the name Barwo was more widely used. The Barwo school (1877) became the Nathalia school in 1882. The town also gained a hotel in 1880, a newspaper in 1884, a flour mill in 1885 and a mechanics’ institute in 1887. In 1889 the Victorian Municipal Directory described Nathalia as a rising township with two bank branches, a school, a mechanics’ institute, a large private hall, three churches, flour mills, two cordial factories, a printing office, four hotels, a number of shops and a railway line from Numurkah (1888).

The Nathalia and Lower Moira Agricultural Pastoral and Horticultural Association held its first agricultural show in 1888, after a prolonged drought in the district. In better years the flat ground near watercourses held enough moisture for orcharding and dairying. A butter factory was opened in 1892. Stock were grazed on the Barmah Common during years of poor rainfall. In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Nathalia –

In 1914 an Irrigation League was formed, inspired by a recent drought and the benefits on the other side of the Goulburn River with the Western Channel from the Goulburn Weir. Unfortunately the waters would not stretch to Nathalia, even when the Sugarloaf (Eildon) and the Yarrawonga Weirs were completed in the 1930s. Farmers continued with adverse dry seasons and occasional years when floods inundated paddocks and threatened the township. Wheat was the mainstay, silos replacing the grainstore at the Nathalia railhead in 1942.

In 1945 the State Government began the acquisition of dry-farm properties in anticipation of settling returned servicemen on irrigated orchards and dairy farms. By 1951 a work camp was in the Nathalia district to construct irrigation and drainage channels. Nathalia-and-district’s population increased by 70% between the 1947 and 1961 censuses. Housing Commission houses and an extension to the shopping area were completed during the 1950s and a hospital was opened in 1955. On 26 April, 1957, the municipality which was named Nathalia shire (30 May, 1957), was severed from Numurkah shire, after a period of acrimony between the two towns.

Since 1919 the Nathalia school had been a Higher Elementary one, taking local children and boarders to Leaving standard. In 1959 a separate high school was opened. In 1961 a Catholic school was opened, extending to secondary education in 1974. The mechanics’ institute building, after periods of neglect, was acquired by the Nathalia historical society in 1972. Registered historic buildings in the township comprise the post office (1887) and Butler’s Store (1888), a good example of a large general store.

Nathalia township is situated on a horseshoe bend of Broken Creek from where flooding is held back by a levee bank. Behind the bank is a large reserve with ovals, tennis courts and a swimming pool. There are a caravan park, three hotels and a golf course. The former butter factory is a milk receiving depot for the Murray Valley factory in Cobram. The hospital, schools and four churches serve a town of about 1,500 people. The railway line from Numurkah closed in 1987.

Nathalia shire was amalgamated with Cobram and Numurkah shires and most of Tungamah and Yarrawonga shires to form Moira shire on 18 November, 1994. Nathalia shire had an area of 1,239 square kilometres, including Barmah and the Barmah State Forest along the Murray River, Picola and Waaia. In 1994 739 square kilometres of the shire was farmed, carrying 17,700 meat cattle, 26,500 dairy cattle and 64,000 sheep and lambs. Wheat and cereals were also grown.

The median house price in Nathalia in 1987 was $49,500 and in 1996 it was $93,000.

Nathalia’s census populations have been 689 (1891), 954 (1947), 1,859 (1961) and 1,455 (1996). The shire’s census populations were 3,225 (1966) and 3,406 (1991).

Nathalia from Broken Creek.
Postcard dated 1928. (Valentine postcard)

Further Reading:

  • Hibbins, Gillian, “A History of the Nathalia Shire: The Good Helmsmen”, Hawthorn Press, 1978.


Jamieson, a rural township and agricultural district is at the junction of the Goulburn and Jamieson Rivers, in country with river flats. It is 30 km. from Mansfield and 120 km. north-east of Melbourne.

Jamieson was a goldfield and a supply centre for gold fields in a belt of country running southwards to Walhalla. Prospectors successfully penetrated the area in 1860, and in 1861 the Jamieson gold workings had over 300 people. A town site was surveyed in 1862 on the river flat encircled on three sides by the Jamieson River. It was probably named after a shepherd, George Jamieson, who grazed sheep there during the previous decade, although a squatter William Kerr, West Gippsland, has been suggested as having inspired the name.

By 1865 Jamieson had a borough council (1864), a Catholic chapel, an Anglican church, a school, a court house and police camp, branches of two banks and two insurance offices, five hotels and several stores. Balliere’s Victorian Gazetteer described it as the entrepot to the Woods Point and other diggings. In 1865 the first Jamieson and Upper Goulburn race meeting was held.

The 1870s were golden years for Jamieson, but the following decade saw a sharp decline in gold production. Howqua shire superseded the borough in 1874, extending municipal government to Gaffneys Creek, 20 km. southwards, and to the intervening small settlements of Kevington, Ten Mile and Knockwood. The shire offices, however, were in Jamieson. Gold production continued fitfully until the first decade of the twentieth century, and yielded increasingly meagre returns until many mine workings were destroyed in the 1939 Ash Friday bushfires. Howqua shire was united with Mansfield shire in 1919.

In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Jamieson –


Since the development of tourism in the Lake Eildon region, Jamieson has gained from providing rural-retreat and motoring holidays. It has two hotel/motels – the Court House and the Junction – a caravan park and several restaurants/bed-and-breakfasts. Saw milling has also assisted the local economy, and farming extends about seven kilometres eastwards along the valley of the Jamieson River. Fishing in the streams has a strong following. Amateur gold dredging in the Jamieson River has occurred since the 1980s.

The Jamieson court house (1863) is on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Jamieson’s census population were 389 (1871), 237 (1901), 157 (1947) and 128 (1966).

Further Reading:

  • Lloyd, Brian, “Gold at the Ten Mile: The Jamieson Goldfield”, Shoestring Bookshop, 1978.


Benalla is a regional city on the Melbourne to Sydney Highway, 180 km. north-north-east of Melbourne. Since the completion of the Hume Freeway, Benalla can be by passed by motorists. It is between Euroa and Wangaratta.

Benalla is on the Broken River, which rises to the south-east beyond Tolmie and flows north-west to join the Goulburn River near Shepparton. During much of its journey the Broken River passes through a flood plain, resulting in multiple water courses and swampy depressions.

When pastoral overlanders followed reports by explorers Hume, Hovell and Mitchell of the Port Phillip grazing lands, they had to cross the Broken River. Alexander Mollison found a narrow stream bed and built a temporary bridge to transport stock and equipment (1837). He “broke through” the swampy river, and it thereafter became Broken River. Mollison’s route became an accepted means of access. It was marked out with some care for the purposes of an overland mail service between Melbourne and Sydney (Joseph Hawdon, 1838), and for policing of the district. An Aboriginal massacreof several members of George Faithfull’s pastoral run (1838) near Benalla provoked (attracted?) official attention to the district.

A hotel, the Black Swan, was opened at Benalla in 1840 and a post office in 1844. The Commissioner for Crown Lands for the Murray District resided in Benalla and conducted a court of Petty Sessions from 1846. A timber bridgewas built over the river in 1847. Next year a hamlet was surveyed and namedafter the Benalta pastoral run; the name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning water holes. (The change of spelling from Benalta to Benalla probably arose form the run’s proprietor, Edward Grimes, not crossing the ‘t’ when he filled in the application for the lease of therun.)

Benalla was fortuitously placed on the Sydney Road which led to several north-east gold fields. It also received traffic to and from Shepparton (today’s Midland Highway). The surrounding land was suitable for wheat growing,orchards and vines, as well as grazing. By 1863 Benalla had two National school and a Catholic school, Methodist, Anglican and Catholic churches,a mechanics’ institute and five hotels. The Black Swan Hotel included theCobb and Co. coach office. In 1873 the railway line through Benalla to Wodonga was opened, and ten years later the branch line from Benalla to Yarrawonga was opened. The Benalla shire was proclaimed 23 August, 1869.
The Australian Handbook, 1875, described Benalla –


Benalla on the Melbourne side of the river was the main township, andhas been known as Benalla West. The first primary school, Benalla West (1851)continues to function, and a secondary college (formerly a technical school,1962) is next to it. Several churches, a convent and school, the Friendly Societies Recreation Reserve, the Agricultural Society’s show ground andthe Botanic Garden are in Benalla West. The placement of the railway station on the other side of Broken River, however, drew Benalla’s commercial activity to that area. In 1941 an air-training school was opened at Benalla east,and during the postwar years the former air-training site became a migrantholding camp and a Housing Commission estate.


Benalla Post Office, c.1909.
(Image courtesy Tony Davies, London. U.K.)

Benalla v’s Collingwood Cricket Match, 1909
(Image courtesy Tony Davies, London. U.K.)

Benalla became a regional centre, particularly with a number of private secondary schools (Trinity Girls’ School and North-East College) and with the opening of a State high school in Benalla east in 1913. Between 1901and 1947 Benalla’s population increased by about nearly 90% to about 5,000persons. The Australian Blue Book described Benalla in 1949 as –


Benalla has succeeded in attracting secondary and tertiary industries.Early examples were the State Electricity Commission’s regional office (1924)and a clothing factory (1945). Textile and garment making became a major employer (323 employees, 1981), along with electrical transformers, food and beverages, and timber products. Regional government offices were built in 1960.

Benalla’s postwar urban growth was acknowledged by the shire’s central riding being formed as a separate borough on 1 September, 1948, the forerunner of the city proclaimed on 26 May, 1965. Another indicator of postwar change was the closure of an eighteen-kilometres branch railway line to Tatongin 1947.
One of the striking aspects for motorists entering Benalla from the Melbourne direction is the rose gardens beside the highway, a short distance before crossing Lake Benalla (1974) and the nearby regional art gallery (1975).The lake, formed by a weir across the Broken River, is adjoined by extensive parklands and recreation facilities. Other recreation facilities include two golf clubs and the State Gliding Centre at the aerodrome. Benalla city had 26,000 square metres of retail floor space in 1991-2, compared with 2,000 square metres in Benalla shire. Most of the city’s retail space isin shopping strips in Benalla east.

The rose gardens, the annual Rose Festival (1967) and the gallery have added tourism to Benalla’s local economy, with the further benefit of proximity to the north-east and Goulburn regions and to eastern alpine snow fields.The gallery holds the Ledger collection of Australian paintings.

Benalla shire (1869) originally included the Euroa district, extending south-west to Longwood. Euroa shire was severed in 1879 and other minor severances occurred between then and 1906. Before amalgamation in 1994 the Benalla shire contained Baddaginnie, Devenish, Glenrowan, Goorambat, Lima, Tatong, Warrenbayne and Winton. The shire’s main agricultural output was sheep and lambs (286,000 head, 1994) followed by meat cattle (41,000 head, 1994) and small quantities of dairy cattle and cereals (8,000 ha.).

On 18 November, 1994, Benalla city and shire, Mansfield shire and part ofViolet Town shire were united to form Delatite shire.
The median house prices in Benalla have been $59,600 (1987) and $86,250(1996). The median personal income of Benalla residents aged 15 years ormore in 1996 was $250 a week, compared with $231 for the region and $290for Victoria.

Benalla’s township census populations have been 557 (1861), 2,711 (1901), 4,949 (1947), 8,260 (1961) and 8,582 (1996). In 1947 the Benalla shire had a population of 8,461. After severance of the Benalla township area the shire’s census populations were 3,728 (1966) and5,519 (1991).

Further Reading:

  • Dunlop, A.J., “Benalla Cavalcade: A History of Benalla,” MullayaPublications, 1973.
  • Kaden (ed.), “Benalla and District Guide and Business Directory”,n.d. (1947?).